Piqued by the endless buzz for the restructuring of Nigeria, former president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Dr Olisa Agbakoba has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to save the country from imminent collapse by giving the country a new constitution which will diffuse tension and unite disparate sub-nationalities.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Agbakoba said this against the backdrop of calls for restructuring in the country.
The pro- democracy activist made the call at a press conference in Lagos, yesterday.
Agbakoba argued that only the president can take the chestnut out of the fire as it is beyond the National Assembly and other organs of state the president mentioned in a recent broadcast, to address the issue.
He cited Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, to buttress his point, and added that this provision confers on the president “all executive powers of the federation and this includes the power to restructure Nigeria.”
Agbakoba also urged southern leaders to reach out to their northern counterparts on the issue.
“Restructuring must have a national outlook. Every constituent part of Nigeria must be carried along. In the South, there is consensus on restructuring. In the North, there is reluctance. The south needs to reach out to the north and allay their fears. The process of restructuring should involve give and take; otherwise it will fail.”
He noted that calls for restructuring lack coherence, content and advocacy and that it must be taken to the people and not just “by having meetings and issuing endless statements.”
He further urged government to adopt the report of the 2014 National Conference which, he said, contextually examined and resolved a lot of the restructuring issues.
Agbakoba identified some challenges that may impede the process to include the “contentious issue of fiscal federalism and how to create a balance between the federal and federating units in revenue sharing”.
He advised that it should be driven by a broad principle of allowing states control over natural resources in their domain and to explore the possibility of isolating hydrocarbons “as it is now crucial to the Nigerian economy” and also canvassed the need for greater transitional provisions to transfer ownership to oil bearing states over a certain period, but in the interim review percentage derivation. “The relevant concept for restructuring is redistribution and not devolution of powers. The concepts are mixed up. Redistribution is when power is rearranged between the federal and regional governments. Devolution relates to powers given up by the unitary government to the regions”
Agbakoba expressed regrets that Nigeria is currently experiencing semi- autocratic democracy, and that the country’s problems is compounded by a situation when 80 percent of resources are consumed by an insignificant three percent of the population. He referred to the three percent as civil servants.